By Rep. Lyndon Yearick
I support my community and our law enforcement efforts.
There is 100% agreement that what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is tragic and wrong, and the judicial system needs to provide a fair process to hold those police officers accountable for their actions or inactions.
Minneapolis is 1,200 miles away from the 34th Representative District in Kent County, where I have had the privilege to serve as the state representative for the last five years. I want to share my experiences and direct involvement with Delaware State Police Troop 3, the Town of Camden police and the Town of Wyoming police.
Under the leadership of Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr., Delaware State Police adopted and began to implement recommendations from President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing initiative. After the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama created a task force that offered 59 recommendations for better policing and building public trust. From the Wall Street Journal, “The Task Force on 21st Century Policing drafted a playbook of best practices in 90 days, with discrete policy prescriptions and broad concepts related to building trust with communities and changing the culture of policing.”
Led by former DSP Troop 3 Capt. Josh Bushweller and continued with current Capt. Rodney Layfield, Troop 3 began to strengthen relationships in neighborhoods with community meetings, diversity hiring initiatives, a police ride-along program, an Honorary Commander Program, lunch with a trooper at elementary schools, school supply drives and the “Community Café” coffee program.
Troop 3 rededicated a trooper as their community relationships’ liaison. This officer regularly attends monthly meetings with the Star Hill Community Civic Association, community events, homeowners’ association meetings, etc. With Troop 3’s participation, I have completed five law enforcement/community town halls at various locations with the purpose of finding ways to work together to strengthen our communities. For example, at DSP Troop 3’s community room, we had 75 individuals from London Village, Paris Villa, Meadowbrook Acres and the Fox Hollow neighborhoods meet to address ongoing vandalism in the neighborhoods. These racially diverse neighborhoods have cooperatively worked with Troop 3. This is a credit to both the members of these communities and to the DSP, which requires its troopers to undergo diversity, de-escalation and unconscious bias training.
Led by Chief Martin Willey, the Town of Wyoming police has led the way each year with the National Night Program, Halloween events in the town, coordination/volunteering at W.B. Simpson Elementary School’s annual Field Day and building relationships in Wyoming. In Camden, Chief Mark Whitney holds regular community coffee meetings, food drives at Thanksgiving, an annual walk-in-their-shoes event and student meetings at our elementary schools.
On June 9, I went to DSP Troop 3’s barracks after I watched several videos from the protesters that were demonstrating in Camden. I wanted to listen to the protesters, but I also went to share my experiences with the police and what they have proactively done to work in our communities. I am not going to render judgment on the protesters and or the police on what transpired that night. There is a separate investigation and process for those decisions. I listened to the protesters and shared my experiences. I am not claiming our law enforcement officers and practices are perfect. In everything, we should strive to do better.
My direct experience leads me to believe we are much further along in what our law enforcement and criminal justice system does to provide a fair system for everyone. I have never had anyone recommend to me that they want less police in their neighborhoods to have more speeding, drug sales and vandalism. Schools are looking to add school resource officers to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our children and families.
We are all in this together. Let us continue our work to strengthen the relationships and trust in our communities.
Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden-Wyoming, serves on the Labor; Legislative Oversight and Sunset; and Analysis & Government Accountability committees, among others.